Wondering what to see and do in India in November? It's an excellent month to visit India. The weather is starting becoming cooler and drier, and the full moon at this time of year -- in the Hindu month of Kartika -- is considered to be particularly auspicious. You'll find fairs and religious celebrations happening all over the country. Here's the pick of what's on in November in India (listed by date for 2020), including both famous and lesser-known festivals.
Do note than many celebrations have been curtailed or canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Details, where available, are provided below.
Set against the surreal backdrop of Kutch's white salt desert, the Rann Utsav showcases the region's culture and heritage (although it has unfortunately become rather commercial and overcrowded). Activities include folk dances and music, food stalls, ATV rides, camel cart excursions, para-motoring, meditation, yoga, and trips to surrounding destinations. A luxury tent village is constructed on the fringe of the salt desert to accommodate visitors. Gujarat Tourism offers package tours. Read more about how to visit the Great Rann of Kutch.
- When: November 12, 2020 to February 28, 2021. It's best on full moon nights (November 30, 2020) to see the moon shining on the salt.
- Where: Great Rann of Kutch salt desert, Dhordo, Gujarat.
Organized by Nada Yoga School every year since 2008, the International Yoga and Music Festival features 50 of the best professional yoga teachers, Ayurvedic doctors, yogis, yoga lecturers, musicians, and philosophers from Rishikesh and abroad. Free classes and lectures are held with topics including yoga asanas, shatkarma, Ayurveda, philosophy, and Indian classical music. There's an Indian classical music concert in the evenings as well. Plan your trip with this Rishikesh travel guide.
- When: November 1-7 every year. Cancelled.
- Where: Rishikesh, Uttarakhand.
Bundi is a picturesque spot in the Hadoti region in Rajasthan. The Bundi Utsav brings it alive with the culture, folklore, traditions and craft of the region. The festival commences with a procession. It features an arts and crafts fair, traditional rural sports, cultural exhibition, folk/classical music and dance program, and even a turban competition. Fireworks cap off the festival. Here are the top things to do in Bundi while you're there.
- When: November 3-5, 2020. Cancelled.
- Where: Bundi, Rajasthan.
Like handicrafts and want to get off the beaten track in West Bengal? Bikna village is home to nearly 300 artisans who make Dhokra art figurines using traditional casting techniques. The village has been developed as a rural crafts hub by the Government of West Bengal and UNESCO, and the Dhokra Mela is one of 20 remarkable rural fairs held by Banglanatak. Visitors can see the artisans at work and learn about their craft making process. Other attractions in the area are the terracotta temples at Bishnupur, Susunia Hills, and Kenjakura handicraft village. Accommodations are available at the Folk Art Centre there.
- When: November 6-8, 2020. Cancelled.
- Where: Bikna, near Bankura, West Bengal. It's about 4 hours from Kolkata.
This festival, celebrated at an ancient and secluded snake temple in Kerala, is sure to leave an impression. The unusual temple is a pilgrimage center for devotees of serpent gods and has Brahmin woman chief priestess. The temple's multitude of snake idols are taken out in grand procession to the Brahmin ancestral home, where special prayers and offerings are made.
- When: November 8, 2020. No public celebration.
- Where: Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja temple, Harippad, Alleppey district, Kerala.
Back for the 7th edition this year, the Mukha Mela celebrates the art of wooden mask making of the Rajbongshi community. There are about 250 artisans in the village, all engaged in the profession.The masks make part of the costume of the traditional Gomira dance, performed to drive out evil forces. The village has been developed as a rural crafts hub by the Government of West Bengal and UNESCO. The artisans' collective also operates a Folk Art Center there, providing accommodation and workshops for guests. Day trips to other nearby handicraft villages (dhokra, pottery and basketry) are possible for a unique cultural tourism experience.
- When: November 9-11, 2020. Cancelled.
- Where: Kushmandi in Dakshin Dinajpur district, West Bengal. It's an overnight train journey from Kolkata, or 2 hours drive from Malda. The nearest railway station is Kaliyagunj.
Also know as the 100 Drum Wangala Festival, this is the biggest harvest festival of Meghalaya's Garo tribe in northeast India. Held in honor of the Sun God of fertility, the festival marks the end of the sowing season and agricultural year. It's celebrated by the beating of drums, blowing horns, and traditional dancing. Festival highlights include a traditional dance competition among Wangala troupes from the Garo Hills, slow-cooking competition, indigenous games, and handloom and handicrafts exhibition. Here are some other places to visit in Meghalaya.
- When: November 12-14, 2020. Will go ahead but has been scaled back to only a couple of rituals.
- Where: Asanang, Garo Hills, Meghalaya.
Diwali, the biggest festival in India, celebrates Lord Ram and his wife Sita returning to their kingdom of Ayodhya after Ram and monkey god Hanuman defeated demon king Ravan and rescued Sita from his evil clutches (on Dussehra). Lots of small clay lamps (called diyas) and candles are lit and placed in houses, and fireworks are let off everywhere, giving Diwali its name as "Festival of Lights". See ways and places to celebrate Diwali in India and photos of Diwali in India.
- When: November 14, 2020.
- Where: Throughout India, except in the southern state of Kerala.
This north Indian festival, traditionally celebrated by the people of Bihar, is devoted to worshiping the sun. People flock to the water's edge to offer prayers to the Sun God at sunset. Hymns and folk songs are sung, and women fast and pray for the well being of their family and friends.
- When: November 20, 2020. (Chhath Sandhya Argh evening prayers).
- Where: Across India, particularly in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Assam, and West Bengal. The banks of the Ganges River in Varanasi are another excellent tourist place to see it. A Chhath Puja also takes place on Juhu beach in Mumbai.
Pingla is another part of West Bengal that's been developed as a rural crafts hub by the Government of West Bengal and UNESCO. The specialty there is Patachitra painting. It's done on cloth, textiles, stationery, and home decor items. During the POT Maya festival, the whole village of Naya transforms into an art gallery. There's also a Folk Art Center dedicated to the craft. When visiting Naya, you can also see the mat weavers hub at nearby Sabang. This year marks the 11th edition of the festival.
- When: November 20-22, 2020. Cancelled.
- Where: Naya village, Pingla, West Bengal. It's about three hours from Kolkata.
Pushkar Camel Fair
This increasingly famous festival sees an astonishing number of camels converge on the tiny desert town of Pushkar. The camels are dressed up, shaved, entered into beauty contests, paraded, raced, and traded. An entertaining sight indeed! Do arrive a few days before the official starting date to catch the most camel trading action. Hot air balloon rides are an added attraction. Find out more in this essential guide to the Puskhar Camel Fair.
- When: November 22-30, 2020. Likely to be cancelled.
- Where: Pushkar, Rajasthan.
This rural festival, dedicated to the bauls (wandering musicians) and fakirs (mystics) of West Bengal, is growing in popularity. About 250 of them from aross the region take part in it. The festival is held at a lush four acre theater village called Tepantar. It's a self-sustaining campus with accommodations for guests. Other cultural destinations in the area include Shantiniketan, Joydeb-Kenduli, the Kantha embroidery hub of Nanoor, the Dokra metal craft hub at Dariyapur, and the wooden dolls hub in Natungram.
- When: November 27-29, 2020.
- Where: Tepantar, Bardhaman, West Bengal.
The Matsya Festival, albeit little-known, showcases Rajasthani culture and heritage at its best. Attractions include exhibitions, competitions, sports, processions, folk music, and a heritage walk. The festival gets its name from the fact that Alwar was once part of the ancient Matsya Desh (Land of Fishes) kingdom during the time of The Mahabharata.
- When: November 25-26, 2020. To be confirmed.
- Where: Alwar, Rajasthan.
This modern and contemporary art fair aims to provide a cultural bridge between Indian artists, art galleries, art collectors and connoisseurs. The artworks on display will include paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations, photographs, and video and digital art by over 400 artists. Seascapes, landscapes, rural and urban scenarios, and abstracts will all be featured. Entry is free, and various workshops and panel discussions will also take place.
- When: November 26-29, 2020. Cancelled.
- Where: Thyagaraj Stadium, Delhi.
Kolayat Fair (Kapil Muni Fair)
The largest fair of Bikaner district, in India's desert state of Rajasthan, the Kolayat Fair combines a huge cattle fair with a pilgrimage to the town's holy lake. It's quite a spectacle as buffaloes, camels, horses and cattle are traded, and pilgrims bathe and float clay lanterns in the lake.
- When: November 28-30, 2020. To be confirmed.
- Where: Kolayat, near Bikaner, Rajasthan.
A festival celebrated by Hindus in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, Karthigai Deepam takes place in a particularly spectacular way in the holy town of Tiruvannamalai. On the evening of Karthigai day, a huge fire lamp is lit high up on Mount Arunachala. Pilgrims come from far and wide to walk around the mountain, and to pray to Lord Shiva. It's believed that Lord Shiva appeared as an endless flame of light before Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma. Hence, oil lamps are lit in homes as well.
- When: November 29, 2020. (The festival starts 10 days prior to this, and there are daily street processions of various gods. The gods are also taken out on floats for three days after the main day).
- Where: Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu.
The gods are believed to descend on earth to bathe in the Ganges on Dev Deepavali, 15 days after Diwali on Kartik Purnima. More than a million clay lamps (diyas) are floated down the river at dusk amid chanting of Vedic hymns. The steps of the ghats, all the way from Ravidas Ghat to Raj Ghat, are also lined with lamps and dieties are taken out in procession on the streets. It's a divine experience. Plan your trip with this Varanasi travel guide.
- When: November 29, 2020.
- Where: Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
Cattle market meets mass bathing ceremony at this regional equivalent of the Pushkar Fair. The Chandrabhaga River is holy to Hindus and it attracts many pilgrims who come to take a bath and offer candles on the occasion of Kartik Purnima. The fair is also quite a big one, with buffaloes, camels, cows, bullocks and horses on sale. Rajasthan Tourism organizes cultural events as well.
- When: November 29 to December 1, 2020. To be confirmed.
- Where: Jhalawar, Rajasthan.
Guru Nanak Jayanti
Guru Nanak Jayanti is a commemoration of Guru Nanak's birthday (he was the founder of the Sikh religion), and is widely celebrated throughout Punjab but especially so at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the main shrine of the Sikhs. On the eve of the festival, Amritsar comes alive with a huge procession, accompanied by singers and musicians. Part of it features a demonstration of Sikh martial arts. The beautifully illuminated temple is an incredible sight to behold at this time. Plan your trip with this Amritsar travel guide.
- When: November 30, 2020.
- Where: Amritsar, Punjab.
The Bali Jatra (voyage to Bali) festival commemorates the ancient era of maritime exploration and trade in Odisha, which saw merchants reach as far as Bali in the 2nd century BC. When the northeast monsoon wind shifted direction around Kartik Purnima, the merchants would set sail for Indonesia. Nowadays, families place paper boats with oil lamps in the water at sunrise and watch them sail away. There will be cultural programs, and a large fair with food stalls and handicrafts.
- When: November 30 to December 10, 2020.
- Where: Cuttack, Odisha.
This vibrant rural fair combines spirituality, sexuality, and animal trading. Street magicians, religious gurus and tantriks, pilgrims, snack stalls, handicrafts, amusement rides, circus performers, and dancing girls all create a carnival like no other. The main event takes place at the intersection of the Ganges and Gandak rivers, when masses of pilgrims bathe at sunrise on Kartik Purnima.
- When: For a month, starting November 30, 2020. (Make sure you arrive by November 29 so you can see the devotees bathing on November 30, which is Kartik Purima).
- Where: Sonepur, near Patna in Bihar.
India has joined Washington D.C. in the USA, and Japan, in having a cherry blossom festival. It features a wide range of fun events, as well as the gorgeous cherry blossoms of course. These include cultural programs, fashion shows, rock concerts, beauty pageant, amateur golf tournament, and stalls showcasing local wine and crafts. All events are free! Stay at one of these Shillong hotels with a difference.
- When: Cancelled.
- Where: Shillong, Meghalaya.
Suitable for both couples and singles, this festival has a line up of renowned international Tantra teachers and healers. It consists of different Tantra and Biodanza workshops every day, a healing temple, live traditional music from Baul musicians, DJs and dance parties, Osho active meditations, Love Lounge, and sacred ceremonies.
- When: Cancelled. This is followed by an optional two-day Living Tantra experience of co-habitating in a Tantric community.
- Where: Zorba the Buddha Center, Delhi.